Winter Storm and Holiday Sales This Weekend

By Sadie Bass

Dec 18, 2009 6:09pm

ABC's Charlie Herman reports from New York:

As a major winter storm hits the East Coast and is expected to snow in a significant portion of the population, retail sales will probably suffer this Saturday and Sunday;  however, the overall impact on holiday sales is not clear.  Retailers have all next week to recoup potentially lost sales from the weekend and other parts of the country will have better weather so sales there won’t be impacted by the storm.

Some worry sales on “Super Saturday,” one of the largest shopping days before Christmas, will be seriously impacted by the storm.  “This is bad news, as it will hit significant population centers,” said Scott Bernhardt with Planalytics, which measures weather impacts on shopping behavior.  “Lots of people will be affected by this storm.”

Others minimize the storm’s impact on holiday sales.  “We are losing one day in one region versus last year when we probably lost seven days over many regions,” due to snow, said Bill Kirk, CEO of Weather Trends International, another firm that works with retailers.  He stressed that while the storm is very intense, it is in a narrow part of the country.  Last year, he pointed out, over 60% of the country was covered in snow several days before Christmas. 

Retail consultant Burt Flickinger said the storm is hitting an area filled with malls and big box retailers like Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us.  Flickinger worried that malls will lack sufficient snow plows to clear out parking lots and that cutbacks by local and state governments of law enforcement will lead to insufficient traffic control in shopping areas.  He pointed out that it was difficult for shoppers to get in and out of stores this year on Black Friday when the weather was warm and dry.  With inclement weather, the situation could be worse and shoppers may opt to stay home, perhaps even shopping on line as many shippers have extended the deadline for packages to arrive in time for Christmas. 

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